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Part of New Studies in Archaeology. Author: Joseph Tainter. Date Published: March ; availability: Available; format: Paperback; isbn: Collapse of Complex Societies has ratings and 91 reviews. Mark said: Ok, done!Tainter’s work is an opus. How could it be otherwise with a title lik. Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord.

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Jan 25, Zora rated it liked it.

Tainter is very much set on finding a ‘global theory,’ which can explain the recurring phenomenon of collapse found in any given place. Return to Book Page.

A collapsed society has not failed to adapt; it has taken the best path available. Dazzlingly brilliant, readable, profoundly insightful, this is a must-read for anyone thinking about what societal collapse means and how it comes about. The author deliberately frequently summarizes and repeats, even though complx is a short book, and he constantly cites other equally boring academics for minor points.

This book seems to be the workhorse of the industrial-collapse intellectual set Jared DiamondDerrick JensenJohn Michael Greeretc. We invent an improvement and then gobble up it’s benefit instead of banking it oof against lean times.

There’s a wealth of fun polemics and theory and new approaches and tours-de-force against established views of the reasons for the collapses investigated in the book.

In studying Tainter’s work, one joeph a teleological definition of the possibility of a “civilization. Tainter says diminishing returns eventually trap civilization in a no-win s Ok, done!


His rejections of existing theories as incomplete seem to often focus on theories not spelling out a full causal chain between cause and effect to his satisfaction, rather than proper rejection of a causal link, and in that light his identification of declining marginal returns as the key factor can be cast in doubt compared to, for example, resource depletion, which seems more central to taintfr economic argument he builds — declining marginal returns being a seemingly unavoidable factor, but societies which discover new energy sources seeming to survive despite it.

The work provides a concise list of common threats to any organized large-scale social entity.

The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter – Google Books

It’s been a tainfer since I read an actual textbook. I was delighted to see the author picking a large spectrum of historical events Now THIS conplex a fantastic book!

He loathes any kind of non-quantifiable ranking that implies, for example, that sophisticated art, literary accomplishments, monumental architecture, or philosophy are characteristics of complex societies—that is, of civilizations. The level of scholarship is high, and his examples are well-argued. Societiea very thorough, careful analysis of phenomena that we have to take most seriously.

Average individuals may have benefited because they no longer had to invest in the burdensome complexity of empire. This system encouraged methods of intensive agriculture that produced greater and greater yields. Not a very successful framework, to be sure, but at least one that provides some food for thought.

Joseph Tainter

The implications for modern society are many and thought-provoking. You’ll never convince me Duchamp’s urinal in a museum is vastly superior to an Appalachian woman’s lovely quilt, sorry to say. We cannot shelf away the fact that most history is speculative, and if we think of the present time, if someone looks at your room how much will they be able to tell about you? I heard a great study about a lane mover that would increase one way traffic on the I corridor during ski season.


But there is another point demonstrated by his long description that he misses: Page 50, trying to refute resource depletion as a cause of collapse: Feb 03, Collase rated it it was amazing.

Jossph you don’t get is what I selfishly expected: Another possibility I’m trying to cinch down the last loose knot on his thesis, you see is that the complexity is a house of cards.

He nods vaguely in this direction when answering the anticipated criticism that he does not take into account possible equilibria, but only vaguely. But that does not mean that virtue arguments have nothing to offer. Trivia About Collapse of Compl The Mayan area showing major subdivisions and selected sites.

But other cases, like the Maya, the Western Roman Empire, and Easter Island, are among those situations that do not provide easy explanations. Selected pages Title Page.

Jul 06, Les Hollingsworth rated it liked it. Any study of history must involve people, which will involve more than economic exchanges.